The Waste Land with Richard Skinner

We’re chatting with Faber Academy Director of Fiction and novelist Richard Skinner about his event at the June Margate Bookie litfest. Keep reading for his review of The Waste Land performance and the ideas behind it.

Richard Skinner








What’s The Waste Land all about?

Oooh, good question. Who knows? It has entranced and baffled people in equal measure ever since it came out in 1922. Personally, I think it has something to say about mental stability. It’s well known that TS Eliot was going through huge difficulties in his personal life at the time of writing, and I think the poem inevitably reflects his fragmented state of mind.


Where did the idea for The Waste Land come from?

I was aware that the 100th anniversary of the publication of the poem was upcoming and of the poem’s special connection to Margate (Eliot stayed in Margate for some weeks to recuperate) so I approached Andreas last year with a proposal to put on a live reading of the whole poem. He said yes.


Who took part?

TS Eliot has such a special place in the history of Faber & Faber that I knew we had to carry on that special relationship for this event. Consequently, I invited three Faber poets to take part: David Harsent, Richard Scott & Hannah Sullivan. All three are fine, award-winning poets and they brought real expertise and gravitas to the reading.

How did it go?

The readers – David Harsent, Hannah Sullivan & Richard Scott – and I rehearsed for three months for this event. On the day, it was a sold-out event and it all went perfectly. We had decided that all three readers would recite the ‘shantih’ prayer-word that closes the poem in unison three times and, when they did, I have to confess that I burst into tears. Such a fitting and fantastic event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of ‘The Waste Land’ and it’s permanent link to Margate. 


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